Locals Only: Sinatra

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

As Sinatra explains on his new DJ Drama-affiliated mixtape The Black Trash Bags Story, the Columbus rapper-producer is "a product of the hood that I was brought up in." So it only makes sense that he chose to be interviewed about his new joint in his parents' house on Oakwood Avenue.

Sinatra's childhood on the South Side, and how he chose to pursue fortune through music instead of crime, is the theme of Black Trash Bags, released online last Friday. The formal release is set for May 1 during a Jim Jones after-party at a venue to be named.

Sinatra's parents were barely teenagers when he was born in 1986 as Demetrius Howard. Five years later, the family moved from Akron's rough West Side to Columbus, where his folks became the first in their respective families to go to college. Their positive influence was a stark contrast from the world he witnessed in his neighborhood.

"I look at it as professions of poverty, if you will. You have drug dealers. You have prostitutes. You have crooked police," Sinatra said. "You're like, 'Damn, I'm surrounded by this.' Usually it becomes an influence if it's all you know."

Sinatra opted against crime in favor of his first love: hip-hop. When his parents weren't bumping A Tribe Called Quest and Redman, the kid was tinkering with a Casio keyboard to accompany rhymes he was churning out daily.

"It came to the point where I didn't even really want toys for birthdays and Christmas," Sinatra said. "I wanted EPMD tapes and CDs."

By age 12, he was recording lo-fidelity jams on a boombox over his parents' cassettes. Over the years, his equipment improved slightly, and his talent expanded exponentially. He won local praise for 2007 debut The Golden Child, but outside Columbus, Sinatra toiled in obscurity until he met Nick Vido.

Vido featured Sinatra on his website, ColumbusHipHop.com, and the two struck up a close friendship, forming a musical duo called Braindouble. Vido connected Sinatra with his manager, providing financial backing and studio time for what started out as a home-recorded EP.

Mixtapes usually require a host. For Black Trash Bags, Sinatra whimsically suggested Drama, the prominent Atlanta DJ whose mixtapes helped launch Lil Wayne and others into superstardom. Much to Sinatra's surprise, local promoter Headake put him in touch with Drama, and the project was a go.

Black Trash Bags is filled with what Sinatra calls "superhero music" - big, booming beats bolstered by triumphant horns and synths. Lyrically, it's a portrait of a young talent obsessed with making it big through legit means. With DJ Drama at his back and the likes of Freeway and Juelz Santana rapping on his beats, Sinatra is approaching that kind of success.

"Hopefully the music can be inspirational for others who are in my situation," Sinatra said. "You don't have to follow that. You can actually stand up. You can still be one of the cool kids and do otherwise."


"The Black Trash Bags Story"

Web: blacktrashbags.com